Resisting American hegemony

Published : Apr 11, 2003 00:00 IST

Interview with Prakash Karat.

The military aggression unleashed on Iraq by the coalition forces led by the United States and Britain has raised serious concerns about the future of multilateralism. Massive demonstrations in several cities, from California to Sydney, have proved that this unilateralism, riding roughshod over international opinion and the United Nations, would not go unchallenged. Prakash Karat, senior Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), spoke to T.K. Rajalakshmi about the implications of the war for multilateralism, India's role, the increasing isolation of the U.S. and Britain and the wave of popular resistance that has emerged. Excerpts from the interview:

Now that the U.S. and some of its allies have embarked on a military aggression against Iraq without the authorisation of the U.N., what do you think is the future of multilateralism in what seems to be a unipolar world headed by the United States?

I think it is significant that the U.N. has not been commandeered by the U.S. for this war. For quite some time now, the U.S. has been getting its way in the U.N. I think it is an important turning point that the Security Council has refused to go along with the U.S. and Britain. Not only did they face resistance from the permanent members like France, Russia and China but they could not get the votes of the other members. Otherwise they would have pushed for that resolution to show that they had a majority in the Council. This is a positive sign.

In the coming days there is going to be resistance to American efforts to reorder the world on its terms. The Security Council defying the will of the U.S. must be seen in that light. Despite the immediate thrust by the U.S. with its war on Iraq, the trend towards multipolarity will grow. It apparently seems that there is only a unipolar world, that there is only the U.S., the sole superpower, with its continuous quest for hegemony all over the world and Iraq is an obvious example of that. But the fact that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), its (the U.S.') own alliance, is not united, the fact that a significant section of Europe has opposed the war and is still opposed to - it has remained firm in its opposition - all this is indicative that the trend towards resisting the unidimensional hegemony of the U.S. is going to grow in the coming days.

How do you view the relations between the U.S. and the European Union now that serious differences have cropped up between the two over the war? Besides, there are fresh differences on who would have administrative authority when reconstruction takes place in post-war Iraq.

We are witnessing a new phase of inter-imperialist contradictions. Even within the Western bloc of countries, which have been the traditional imperialist powers, there is a sharp division. The fact that France and Germany are together in their opposition to the U.S. attack on Iraq, implies that this contradiction will grow in the coming days. The important point, however, is that much of Europe is not prepared to accept the old Atlantic alliance as a cover for U.S. hegemony. Underlying this is the popular upsurge against the governments of Europe. The E.U. has its own imperialist interests at one level, and at another level there is the popular movement that is refusing to accept American hegemony.

An expression of this was seen in the E.U. meeting at Brussels where the French and the Germans have stated that they won't accept an Anglo-American reconstruction project in Iraq. There will be a demand that the U.N. step in. But the point is what kind of an Iraq will it be. It will be virtually an American protectorate. And fighting that is important.

The anti-war protests across the world, widespread and vocal, are expected to increase as the offensive on Iraq intensifies. Do these protests represent a mere sentiment against war in general or signify resistance to globalisation?

The anti-war protests were preceded by the anti-globalisation protest movement; naturally the latter has gone into the anti-war movement. The obvious injustice of this war and the U.S. government's motives have been so transparently appalling that it succeeded in galvanising huge sections of people to come out. A noteworthy feature all over the world, and in particular in the West, has been the huge participation of school students. This did not happen earlier, not even during the anti-Vietnam war protests. Hundreds of students have come out on the streets in Britain, Australia and France. This shows a growing consciousness among the younger generation, which was not seen for a long time.

Was this course of action on Iraq a foregone conclusion?

This is a script that was written long ago. Everybody knew it was foreordained. The Bush administration had been planning to target Iraq, a strategy that evolved years ago. Even if September 11 had not taken place, Iraq would have been attacked. The idea always has been to establish a firm control over the Gulf region and Iraq was intended as a target along with the replacement of Saddam Hussein. We knew all this talk about Weapons of Mass Destruction or demonising of Saddam Hussein was just a pretext for this war.

This war was coming anyway. The U.S. has been in war with Iraq for the last 12 years. It never ceased as far as Iraq was concerned. Even when it was a democratic regime, in 1996 or 1998, there have been attacks, bombardments. Iraq had to be brought to heel to assert that there can be no defiance of the American empire.

What do you think about the Indian government's stand? Has India lived up to its image as a free, independent, sovereign democracy? What course of action will be in India's best interests in the context of the threat to multilateralism?

The Indian government is mainly run by the Bharatiya Janata Party and it has some allies just like Bush has some allies with him. The BJP is a pro-imperialist party and it has made it clear in the last five years that it wants to be a strategic ally of the U.S. Its perception of Iraq or any other issue concerning American hegemony is to be seen in the context of it being a natural ally of the U.S. The only constraint over it today is that Indian public opinion, irrespective of affiliation, is sympathetic to Iraq and is opposed to the military aggression. Therefore, the government cannot expose itself by taking a pro-American position, and hence has come out with this "middle path". Therefore there is nothing to expect from the Indian government.

What we are saying is that there has been a blatant aggression against the U.N. Charter, against the will of the U.N. and at least on that basis, the Vajpayee government should have at least condemned the aggression. But they are not prepared even to do this. This was made clear at the all-party meeting on March 22. The entire Opposition demanded a clear-cut resolution condemning the attack on Iraq but the government was not prepared to do so.

By taking a middle path, does the government hope to gain diplomatic leverage in the future?

Far from it. It has nothing to do with diplomacy. It is a question of its political understanding, a question of its perspective. It wants to be an ally of the U.S. Even those countries which said they want to be part of the U.S.-led global coalition against terrorism have opposed the American attack. Even Russia which said it would cooperate with the U.S. on terrorism has opposed the attack. Therefore it is more a political, ideological position of the BJP government.

Now that war has started, where do you think India's interests lie?

India's interests do not lie with the stand taken by the BJP government. We are virtually reducing ourselves to the plight of the Pakistani regime which is so dependent on the U.S. Despite public opinion being against the war, the Pakistani government has been unable to oppose the war categorically. India is a country that could have had an independent policy with the country's interests in mind and could have rallied public opinion across countries right from the beginning to block this move that has trampled the U.N. Charter. But it chose not to do so.

What do you think India can do in the post-war scenario in terms of humanitarian relief? Already there is discord over reconstruction rights in post-war Iraq.

It is in no position to intervene either morally or diplomatically. It will get some crumbs from the U.S. in the so-called reconstruction of Iraq. It will be happy to participate in that. All this will be done under the aegis of the U.S. corporations who are anyway hovering around like vultures waiting to descend on Iraq. On its own, the Indian government cannot do anything.

Given the fact that some countries, especially the U.S., are now talking about a post-war Iraq and desire a hand in the reconstruction pie, how do you view their concerns and the concerns of the Iraqi people in this context?

I look at it from another angle. A military occupation of Iraq is now inevitable. A U.S. military governor will head Iraq. Resistance to this occupation will continue from the Iraqi people. Even one and a half years after the war on Afghanistan, the U.S. has not been able to establish a pliant government which is in control. How does it expect to do that in Iraq? When our solidarity delegation visited Iraq, we were told by the Iraqi people that they were preparing for a protracted struggle against the occupation of their country. Resistance to occupation will be an important feature in the coming months. What is this reconstruction all about? It is but establishing an American protectorate to loot Iraqi resources. There has to be resistance to that and we have to support that resistance.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment